Guide to Virtual Residencies

Sine Qua Non by Diana Poput

Published 13th Apr 2020, Written by juli

More and more events and opportunities are migrating to the digital world. So we thought we’d share some tips and insight into virtual residencies.

As with many of the experiences and ways that we connect in the digital age, an art residency doesn’t necessarily have to be or take place in a physical space. There were relatively few on our radar before. But more are popping up as a result of the corona crisis and related social-distancing measures.

And, independently of the Covid-19 pandemic, as institutions seem to increasingly focus on digital platforms and online publishing, more virtual residencies could be a possible by-product. 

In case you’re not familiar with this format and are thinking of giving it a go, here’s our guide to virtual residencies. What they are, how they work, and what they offer beyond an immediate solution in these times of isolation. 

What is a Virtual Residency?

Virtual, or web, residencies provide artists with a platform and period of time to carry out a project and/or present their work and receive visibility. In this, they are similar to traditional art residencies. Except, as the name suggests, they usually take place entirely online. 

Digital spaces for producing and presenting art

Generally, the purpose of art residencies is to offer space and mobility to artists. This means providing resources and time to work on site in a different location. As in, away from their own studio, home, city, etc. 

Though virtual residencies might not be able to offer this, they are positioned to provide other benefits and forms of support. Like more immediate exposure, engagement and feedback from a larger, international audience. And, on a broader scale, they offer the possibility of decentralizing art discourse. 

Virtual residencies might be connected to a larger institution, set up as an extension of an online platform, and/or take the form of an Instagram takeover.

A new Instagram account, Covid-19 Residency, has even been set up exclusively as a residency. In this case, it’s a space for projects that were abruptly brought to an end as a result of the corona shutdown. 

How does it work?

The way online residencies are organized, their format, duration, and what is expected may vary. As with other types of art residencies, virtual residencies might offer funding. And while some issue open calls to bring in residents, others might accept artists by invitation. 

Whereas some residency programs may provide an opportunity to work more freely and at your own pace, web residencies often have a more limited time frame. And the program essentially takes place in a more public setting (via live-streaming, frequent posting on an online platform or social media, etc. ). Meaning, you are likely expected to perform or produce something regularly — even if it is still in process. 

In this way, virtual residencies may be more experimental or process focused, rather than oriented around the completion of a particular project. SpeakAIR, for example, is a web residency that takes place via the organization’s Facebook page. Residents develop artistic research — the form and content of which is up to them — while opening up real-time discussion via live-streaming. 

Online Platforms

Some organizations and institutions create an online platform, or use their existing website to host virtual residencies. 

For example, the collective art writing platform, The White Pube, uses their own website as a location for web residencies. For this, artists are invited to work on a webpage for a one-month period. Resulting projects have taken different forms: from poetry to exhibitions. 

Another web residency is jointly organized by Akademie Schloss Solitude and ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. This program similarly runs for 4 weeks. During this time, digital and web-based artists can experiment with new forms, taking the internet as a site of production. Curators set a different topic for each call, which is thematically linked to digital space. And residents’ projects are presented on the platform, Schloss Post.  

Instagram Residencies

Another form of virtual residencies are those that take place on Instagram. Back in February, The Art Newspaper reported on the growing trend of institutions and museums appointing artists-in-residence via Instagram takeovers and similar forms of collaboration.

For museums, this form of virtual residency can be effective in activating their collections. And it’s a way of bringing fresh perspectives to historical works. 

The Musee d’Orsay in Paris initiated an Instagram residency earlier this year. The artist-in-residence, Jean-Philippe Delhomme, is posting weekly illustrations over the course of one year, engaging with the museum’s collection. Specifically, his illustrations imagine the social media presence of 19th-century artists from the collection, as though they were alive today. 

Other major museums have run similar programs: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) launched an Instagram artist-in-residence program in 2017, for example. 

Why do a Virtual Residency?

Beyond the current corona crisis and social-distancing measures, there are benefits to doing a virtual residency. 

For artists

A major reason to participate in a virtual residency is that it is accessible to those with difficulties traveling or being away from home for long periods. Whether as a result of visa restrictions, finances, family obligations, etc. 

And this goes both ways. Viewers likewise have a chance to experience and get involved in an artist’s work, project or creative process from wherever they are.  

Overall, this brings institutional support and visibility to an artist’s work and practice. And without the sometimes very big commitment that goes along with doing a residency program. The virtual format acts as a platform for open exchange, where a broader, global audience can get in on the conversation. And this also leaves potential for a more accessible, inclusive art world. 

For organizers

Virtual residencies are a way of bringing exposure to a program, institution, or platform. Moreover, it allows for different voices and perspectives to emerge in the content that gets published. And it provides an opportunity to support artists by offering something tangible, while requiring fewer resources and expenses. 

These types of residencies aren’t necessarily new. We’re all familiar with the concept of an Instagram takeover by now. But they are on the rise, and perhaps becoming more formalized.

And though virtual residencies might not allow you to travel to, work in and experience a place beyond your usual surroundings, these alternative forms of exchange also open up their own set of possibilities. 

A virtual residency could bring your work and voice a wider audience, expand your network, offer new insights, and — perhaps most importantly — provide some funding. 

Looking for your next residency?

Find residencies on ArtConnect